Allan Kardec

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Different Orders of Spirits

A central point in the Spiritist Doctrine is the difference among the spirits, be it intellectual or moral. Their teachings never changed regarding this subject. Nevertheless, it is essential to know that they do not eternally belong to the same order and that, as a consequence, these orders do not constitute distinct species: they indicate different degrees of development. The spirits follow the progressive march of nature. Those of the inferior orders are still imperfects; later, after depuration, they reach the superior orders; they move along the hierarchy while acquiring qualities, experience and knowledge which they still lack. The breast feeding child is not similar to what it shall be at a mature age; however it is always the same being.

The classification of the spirits is based on their degree of progress, their acquired qualities and their imperfections that need to be stripped off. By the way, such classification has nothing of absolute. Each category only shows one key feature but from one degree to the next the transition is soft, the nuance fades away towards the extremes, like it does in nature, in the colors of the rainbow or in the several stages of human life. It is then possible to form a higher or lower number of classes, according to the point of view used to consider the subject. The same happens to all forms of scientific classification: they can be more or less complete, more or less rational, more or less accommodating to the intelligence but, whatever they may be, they can never change the fundamentals of the Science.

Once questioned about this subject the spirits may have given different answers with respect to the number of categories but this is not important. Critics take this apparent contradiction not considering that the spirits themselves do not give importance to what is purely conventional. To them, thought is everything. They leave to us the choice of format, expressions and classification – in one word, the systems.

We shall still add the following consideration: one should never forget that, among the spirits, as with human beings, there are those that are highly ignorant and we must resist our tendency to think that the spirits must all know everything just because they are spirits. Every classification requires method, analysis and profound knowledge of the subject. Well, in the spiritual world, those who have limited knowledge, like the ignorant among us, are incapable of an ample view of the broad picture and to establish a system; and those who are capable may vary in the details, according to their view point, especially when a division has nothing of absolute. Lineu, Jussieu and Tournefort have each followed a different method. Nonetheless, the Science of Botany has not changed. They have neither invented the plants nor their features. They observed the analogies and formed the groups or classes based on that.

That was how we proceeded. We did neither invent the spirits nor their characters. We saw and observed; we judged them based on their words and acts, then we classified them based on their similarities. This is what anybody else would have done in such a case.
However we cannot claim authorship of the whole work. If, on one hand, the classification given below was not entirely outlined by the spirits and if it is of our own initiative, on the other hand it contains all elements acquired from their teachings. The remaining work was to formulate a physical arrangement of the material.

The spirits generally admit three main categories or large divisions. At the end, on the bottom of the scale, lies the imperfect spirits, those who still need to go through all or almost all stages: these are categorized by the prevalence of matter over the spirit and by their inclination towards evil. Those at the second level are categorized by the prevalence of the spirit over matter and by the desire of good deeds: these are the good spirits. The first category thus comprehends the pure spirits, those who have reached the supreme degree of perfection.

Such a division seems perfectly rational to us and presents well defined characters. What was still missing to distinguish, in sufficient number, was the nuances of each group. This is what we did with the help of the spirits, whose benevolent instructions have never failed us.

With the support of that classification table it will be easy to determine the category and the degree of superiority or inferiority of the spirits with whom we may entertain ourselves and, as a consequence, the degree of confidence and regard they deserve. Besides this is of our personal interest as we ourselves, by our souls, belong to the spiritual world in which we shall enter as soon as we leave our mortal covering (wrapping), indicating to us what we need to do in order to achieve perfection and the supreme good.

Nevertheless, we will observe that the spirits do not always and exclusively belong to this or that class. Their progress only gradually takes place and many times more in one direction than in another, being thus able to have characters of several categories, which is easy to observe from their language and acts.

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